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Will school board bond be good for Black businesses?

caines | 10/25/2012, 5:30 a.m.

I was recently made a member of the Board of Directors of the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce [M-DCC], which held its annual retreat this last weekend. I was impressed by the organization of the retreat which developed short-term and long-term goals for the Chamber, including a major push to expand the chamber to be organization that serves the entire South Florida community by opening an office in Broward County. I was impressed by more fellow board members, who are leaders in education, sports, construction, health care, international travel and tourism. The most outstanding characteristic of the Board is its concern for the Black community in particular the Black business community. M-DCC has become one of the few advocates for Black businesses in the County. To strengthen this role, it has developed a new committee focusing on advocacy. The advocacy committee will be encouraging, cajoling and flat out pushing private and public sector entities to do more business with Black-owned businesses. One of the major concerns of the Chamber is the lack of contracts received by Black-owned businesses from the public sector. It is a goal of the Chamber to increase the number of contracts received by Black-owned businesses from the State, counties, school boards and municipalities. With the death of affirmative action programs, the number of Black-owned businesses receiving government contracts has dwindled to almost non-existent. In order to strengthen the Black community, develop a strong Black middle class and lower unemployment in the Black community, Black-owned businesses must get some of the funds spent by government organizations. Black taxpayers constitute 16 percent of the tax base but Black businesses get less than 1 percent of the Countys expenditures. To her credit, Commissioner Barbara Jordan has sponsored legislation to have a study done to show that there is discriminatory, disparate impact against Black businesses, so that a new set aside program can be created for the County. A similar study should be done by our largest municipalities and the School Board. While the Chamber is supportive of the school board bond referendum, Chamber board members have reservations, because there is no guarantee that the Black community will benefit from the $1.2 billion bond referendum, which will be paid in part by the Black community in the form of increased property taxes. How does one ensure that Black contractors, architects, engineers, plumbers, electricians, accountant, attorneys and suppliers will receive a fair portion of the contracts? If 16 percent of the property taxes are from Black homeowners, will 16 percent of the expenditures go to Black-owned businesses and will 16 percent of the people employed be Black? Can the Black community count on the superintendent and school board to institutionalize in writing a commitment to ensure that the Black community is not bypassed? This is an opportunity for our two elected Black school board members to step forward and shout to the mountain tops that they are advocates for their constituents and that they will ensure that new schools are built in the Black community, that Black workers are hired and that Black professionals and businesses are given an opportunity to provide services. Reginald J. Clyne is a partner at Clyne and Associates, P.A. of Miami/Fort Lauderdale.